NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- So much for the Islanders' prolific offense.
In the span of a week, one of the NHL's top scoring offenses has gone in the tank. The hope of a division title has been replaced by a mad scramble to avoid having to go on the road to start the playoffs.
Prior to their 2-1 loss to the-then second place Rangers at Nassau Coliseum last Tuesday, the Islanders were staring at the possibility of upping their Metropolitan Division lead to five points.
Now with their losing streak at three, and with just a total of three goals to show for their efforts during their recent homestand, the Isles entered play Monday five points behind the first-place Rangers.
That's how quickly things can change, especially in what has been a tightly packed Eastern Conference all season.
And if the Isles (43-24-4) don't get their offense going soon it's quite possible they could finish third or even fourth in the division and have to open the playoffs on the road. New York leads Pittsburgh by two points and Washington by six, but the Penguins have two games in hand and the Capitals one.
Head coach Jack Capuano didn't mince words after the Isles' 3-1 loss to visiting Montreal on Saturday.
"I would hope so a little bit," Capuano said when asked if his team was frustrated. "You want a little fire in your belly. I sound like a broken record. We played pretty well, to be honest."
John Tavares, who led the NHL with 72 points heading into Monday's action, one more than three other players, did not register a single point in the three losses after putting up 21 in the Isles' previous 13 games.
Despite the slide, the Islanders have scored 221 goals, second most in the NHL. The problem of late has appeared to be the play of hot opposing goaltenders and stingy defenses, but the Isles simply haven't been the same team in the second half, winning just 12 of 25 games (12-10-3) since the All-Star break.
New York has also lost eight of its last 14 at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders have relied heavily on a ton of young players all season, especially on the offensive end. Have they hit a wall or are they just not battled-tested enough to deal with the smaller ice, tighter checking and ramped-up goaltending that tends to come during a playoff chase? Capuano said he's not in the excuse-making business. It's simply time for his players to wake up.
"We stay confident with these guys. We believe in these guys," Capuano said. "Let it happen now. For whatever reason, we are a little snake-bitten, and things aren't finding its way like it used to. It's good. It makes guys want to work a little bit harder."
The Islanders, who have not lost more than three in a row all season, travel to West power Chicago on Tuesday. The Blackhawks have won two straight and six of eight.
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